Trellis’ new state court analytics tools provide much needed insights into litigators and their law firms which will lead to better strategic decisions. But the real value of the tools may be to firm management, especially for large firms with offices in multiple locations.
Lost in the hoopla recently from the announcements of big players in legal tech of their generative AI offerings (as impressive as they were) was an announcement by Trellis of an important new set of analytic tools.
Trellis is a state court legal research and analytics platform. I have written before about Trellis’ laser focus on state court analytics. While other bigger players focus on federal court—where the data picking is easier—or offer state court analytics as another product line, Trellis understands the state court game better than anyone.
Most of the litigation lawyers in the US practice in state court either exclusively or in large part
Why is that important? Despite all the talk about litigation analytics, most litigation occurs in state court. Most of the litigation lawyers in the US practice in state court either exclusively or in large part. And that’s why Trellis is such a player. Need plus commitment.
And recently, Trellis released a new, stand alone product called Law Firm Intelligence by Trellis. Law Firm Intelligence by Trellis, according to Trellis, will offer insights into law firms’ business and competitive intelligence. Law Firm Intelligence by Trellis aggregates state trial court data across a platform. It enables users to look up a particular metric related to a specific law firm, such as how many cases a law firm had or has against another law firm.
I talked about the product to Nicole Clark, Trellis’s co-founder and CEO. She told me that a platform that provides insights to law firms about state courts has been in the works for a while. It’s a tool that customers understandable, want, and need.
The Trellis’ products offer several analytics dashboards that allow users to filter state trial court data by different metrics. These metrics include law firms, individual lawyers, judges, motions grant rates, types of cases, and outcomes, among others. Importantly, the tools will let users view the actual dockets and documents supporting the metric to confirm the analytics. You can see the underlying data itself and where it came from.
Says Clark, “Analytics is useful along with drilling down into the underlying data.” It is the underlying data that explains why certain things are happening. For example, analytics may tell you that 90% of the time, a judge will deny a motion to dismiss in a particular type of case. But the underlying data will tell you why the other 10% of the motions are decided differently. And that difference could mean everything.
Law Firm Intelligence can be used in several ways. It will allow law firms to take a peek at opposing counsel, their experience, and how they approach cases. You can see how opposing counsel practices their cases, how often they settle, and when. This look can help make all kinds of strategy decisions, including when best to approach settlement. The tools will also enable clients to make better hiring decisions and match a lawyer’s skill and experience to the needs of a particular case. It will give lawyers insights into the judge in a case, including how long it may take to reach certain points in the litigation. Analytics can help manage client expectations.
The highest value will come from the insights the data tells a firm about itself and its place in the market. It will allow a law firm, particularly a large one with offices in multiple states, to gain insights into its internal litigation practice.
But after talking with Clark, I believe the highest value will come from the insights the data tells a firm about itself and its place in the market. It will allow a law firm, particularly a large one with offices in multiple states, to gain insights into its internal litigation practice.
So much can be done with this kind of data. For a law firm looking at itself, the analytics can quickly reveal such things as:
• The volume of cases by year aggregated by practice area.
• The firm’s most frequent clients based on case volume.
• The individuals and businesses that the firm has represented and the frequency of representation.
• The practice areas and matter types and in what state/county are these cases focused.
• An assessment of whether firm resources are likely to be over or under-utilized.
• The frequency a firm goes against another firm in a state/county, in front of a particular judge, and in a specific practice area/matter type.
• The trends in firm appearances in front of particular judges to know how comfortable a firm is with that judge.
• A drill down into the specific cases seen in front of the judge to review previous firm strategy and the result of that strategy.
• An understanding of the likely outcome of a firm’s case type within a specific county, in front of a particular judge, or with a specific practice area/matter type.
• Projection of potential revenue by understanding the matter outcomes and a firm’s preferred paths to case resolution.
The Trellis tools will provide information about the most significant book of business in most litigation departments: state court litigation. To perhaps state the obvious, a lawyer, practice group, and law firm can obtain better results with these tools. It can see who has the most experience in the firm dealing with certain matters. The analytics may show the frequency a lawyer in the firm appears before a specific judge and the success rate. That lawyer might very well be the best lawyer in the firm to handle new matters before that judge. Or at least offer insight to those who are.
A firm could analyze who is having success in certain types of cases and why. This analysis could lead to the creation of best practices. State court analytical tools will no doubt help guide strategy decisions and client expectations.
The tools will be especially valuable to large firms with offices in multiple locations. The management challenges for these firms are getting their arms around robust information to make sound decisions
Beyond all this, though, the tools can significantly impact firm management of its litigation department. The tools will be especially valuable to large firms with offices in multiple locations. The management challenges for these firms are getting their arms around robust information. Who is doing what and where, who is being successful, and in general, where the firm is going from a litigation perspective–or should be.
The tools can help compensation committees make more informed decisions about who is really doing what in the firm, how successful they are, and even how profitable a line of work is. The information the tools provide can help management determine whether such things as origination credits have been correctly awarded. Not to mention the insights that state court analytics can give practice groups.
With these analytics, a firm can better manage marketing and marketing dollars. For example, does it make sense to pour marketing dollars into pursuing a client or line of work, or are other firms so much better positioned to make success unlikely? Analytics can accurately show where a firm is and where it should—or perhaps should not—go.
Without tools like this, firms often have to make critical marketing decisions and resource allocation based on a pitch by an individual partner. A partner who claims to have some superior insight. The rub: they often don’t but still demand resources to pursue a proverbial wild goose chase. Without data, countering these claims, especially by a powerful partner, can be difficult.
Again, a firm using the platform can make informed pitches and assemble the best team based on data. The tools can help firms determine what to stress in their marketing pitches. And help determine when a firm isn’t the best choice. I learned over the years that your credibility as a lawyer is vastly enhanced when you say you can’t do something instead of saying you can when you can’t.
Yes, we have had these tools for federal practice for some time. But so much more happens in the state courts. And yes, lots of this information is available internally for firms. But pulling that information together previously has been challenging and time-consuming. And not billable. So it often lies hidden away, and management has to make its best guess. That’s why the new Trellis platform may be so impactful.
State court data is challenging
One can only imagine the work that must have gone into this. Clark admitted that getting this up and running was very hard. For example, docket sheets often list the lawyer handling the case and their firm. But lawyers often leave firms, making getting a true picture harder. Clark told me that Trellis had to create a LinkedIn-type matrix just to get a handle on the status of lawyers and their whereabouts.
State court data is challenging. Data is hard to get or doesn’t exist in digital form. Multiple jurisdictions within a state with multiple rules. Some file digitally, and some do not. It’s a mess. But by a singular commitment, Trellis seems to be gaining on it.
Trellis isn’t a huge company. But Trellis is focused on an essential element of the litigation landscape. The Trellis team is passionate and scrappy. And they are getting the job done.